Africa is littered with abandoned poorly-planned aid projects

What Went Wrong? is a citizen journalism project started in sub-Saharan Africa to document all the unsustainable aid projects started by Westerners who fail to follow through after their PR blitz. Journalist Peter DeCampo spoke with BRIGHT magazine about the project, where Africans can text reports on local fiascoes and boondoggles:

I began by photographing my own aid project: as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Wantugu, Ghana, in 2008, I started a household latrine project that went nowhere. Years later, I went back and and saw that the concrete slabs meant to be the base of the latrines were still lying useless all over the community, one for each home.

Failed aid projects are ubiquitous in sub-Saharan Africa. Every day, people go about their lives with broken water systems towering over them. They live with some forgotten aid project or another tucked in the corner of a room in their home. As a photographer, I wanted to show how commonplace this is, to leave the viewer wondering what this must feel like.

But that felt incomplete. I wanted to dig into how people feel about aid. I was struck by how little agency aid recipients have regarding what they receive or whether it is deemed a success. In 2015, I was granted a Photography, Expanded Fellowship (a joint initiative of the Magnum Foundation and the Brown Institute for Media Innovation) to develop this idea; they paired me with designer Joe Wheeler, and he and I have been building since then.

The Road to Hell Is Paved with Good Intentions — And Broken Toilets (BRIGHT via